An estimated £100m would be required over 10 years to establish a university for the Highlands and Islands, it has been claimed.
UHI is involved in research into diabetes
Highland higher education institution UHI Millennium Institute has been trying to win full university status.
UHI has produced a four-page briefing paper for the region's Scottish prospective parliamentary candidates.
It calls on the Scottish Executive to give UHI substantial funding to support research and new buildings.
Principal Professor Bob Cormack said the institute was making progress at its facility in Inverness where it has been researching therapies for diabetics.
It has also been performing well at its marine science establishment in Dunstaffnage and at the Thurso site, where it has been investigating how to handle nuclear waste.
However, Prof Cormack said UHI had not received the levels of funding awarded to universities which were established in 1962 and 1992.
Granted higher education institution status in April 2001
Thirteen academic locations across the region
UHI student council was formed in June 1998
The institute has received plenty of political support but this has not been matched in cash terms, the professor said.
He said: "We have a catchment of half a million people, but do not have a university.
"One half of Scotland has 14 universities and our half doesn't.
"If you look at the 14 other universities in Scotland they have all been significantly endowed."
UHI does not have a central campus and students attend at centres across the Highlands and Islands.
Prof Cormack said setting up and maintaining this network was expensive.
UHI had hoped to attain full university status in 2007 - the Highland Year of Culture.
However, that hope suffered a blow last year when the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education said more time was needed for the institute to become the University of the Highlands and Islands.
The agency said UHI programmes were of a high quality but said there was a need for a stronger university structure.
The drive to establish the university won backing in the House of Commons last December when David Cairns, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, said he was "convinced" by the bid.
He was responding to a question from Ross, Skye and Lochaber MP Charles Kennedy during Scottish Question Time.